Viewers will enter a world of dynastic power struggles and family treachery in BBC Earth’s new landmark series, "Dynasties".
The six-episode natural history series features the iconic voiceover of Sir David Attenborough and was filmed over four years in locations around the world. Three of which are in Africa.
It focuses on some of the world’s most endangered animals including chimpanzees, emperor penguins, lions, tigers and painted wolves, an episode that was shot at the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.
The series brings a bold, new level of real life drama to the natural history genre, revealing the complexities of power, rivalry and tenderness in animal relationships.
Mike Gunton, creative director of the BBC Natural History unit and executive producer of Dynasties worked on the show together with producer, director and photographer, Nick Lyon and a crew and professional walking guides.
“Dynasties is quite an unusual project for the Natural History unit because for the last 15 years we’ve created a format for these landmarks, where we go all around the world - we do about 10 sequences and each story lasts about 6 - 7 minutes. And they are very popular because you get a lot of variety and different emotional beats and stories. But I felt that it was beginning to get a bit predictable,” said Gunton.
He said a lot of the time, they would discover stories but could never deal with it fully.
“We could only deal with a tiny bit of it, when there was so much more to tell. These animals do so much more than just hunt or fight. If you look at the relationships they all have, I’ve always been interested in telling those connectable emotional type of stories,” he said.
As the show stories unfolds viewers will witness these animals and their incredible determination to protect their family line in the face of challenges to their leadership or from the often harsh environment around them.
“We had to find the right animals. We didn’t want a generic story. It had to be about a pack, because in nature, all animals want to pass its genes on to the next generation and often one of the individual will get more than anybody else by being the boss. They get most of the food, most of the mates, so that means that their genes dominate - hence the name of the show Dynasties,” said Gunton.
He said another thing he thought was interesting was a convergence in factual programming and drama.
“Everybody watches drama but very little factual is watched. So I thought this type of behaviour already exists in nature without having to write it. So it was worth a try to persuade views that factual programming can take a dramatic format. It was risky, but I was pretty confident with the research and the team,” said Gunton.
He said the episodes are not fairy-tales, they are true and real.
“No animal is immune to dying and we are not guaranteed happy endings. There is a strong emotion and it’s almost as if the animals are telling their own stories,” he said.
This stunningly shot series explores the complex relationships of these characters and shows the teamwork it takes to hold onto their territories. It immerses the audience in every poignant moment and heart-wrenching betrayal as they strive to create dynasties to rule for generations.
"Dynasties" airs Sundays on BBC Earth at 4pm.